What is in the White House plan to expand the charging network for electric cars: NPR

What is in the White House plan to expand the charging network for electric cars: NPR

Vice President Harris charges an electric vehicle during a tour of the Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Prince George’s County, Md. There, she highlighted investments in electric vehicles.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

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Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Vice President Harris charges an electric vehicle during a tour of the Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Prince George’s County, Md. There, she highlighted investments in electric vehicles.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

For owners of electric cars who long for the freedom of the open road, range anxiety has been a constant source of concern.

The Biden administration hopes to change that, and this week announced a multi-billion dollar plan to strengthen the country’s electric vehicle charging system – a step experts say is crucial to reducing the US carbon footprint and improving the accessibility and practical features of non-traditional vehicles.

The White House has pledged $ 7.5 billion from a two-part infrastructure law to move toward improving and increasing the national charging network. The plan will create new public chargers for both local commuting and long-distance travel.

The announcement comes in the wake of commitments from some of the country’s most popular car brands, including General Motors, Volvo and Lexus, to expand their range of electric vehicles.

A major barrier to buying an electric vehicle, said Vice President Harris as she described the White House’s plan, is to find out where and how to charge it.

“Well, when we install public chargers in rural, urban and suburban areas, we make it easier for people to go electric. It’s that easy,” Harris said.

President Biden hopes that greater availability of charging stations – as well as other incentives such as a proposed tax deduction of up to $ 12,500 in his Build Back Better proposal – will push drivers in the market for a new vehicle towards a more environmentally friendly electric alternative.

There will be a new joint office to support the development of the charging network

The plan includes $ 5 billion for states to expand the charging network, especially in rural and urban neighborhoods that have historically been understaffed in the green vehicle market.

It also includes an additional $ 2.5 billion in competitive grants to communities to “ensure that the deployment of chargers meets the administration’s priorities such as supporting rural charging, improving local air quality and increasing charging for electric cars in disadvantaged communities,” the White House said in a statement. a statement.

The administration says it will publish guidelines for states and cities by February 11 to “strategically deploy EV charging stations to build a national network along our nation’s highway system.”

“This guide will look at where we already have electric car charging and where we need – or will need – more of it. It will focus on the needs of disadvantaged and rural communities, catalyze further private investment in electric car charging and ensure we are smartly connected to our electrical networks, “according to the plan.

By 13 May, the Ministry of Transport will provide guidance for chargers in the national network “to ensure that they work, they are safe and that they are accessible to all”.

Pete Buttigieg, who oversees the transport department, and energy secretary Jennifer Granholm signed an agreement this week to establish a joint office for energy and transport to support the development of the charging network.

“We are embarking on a transformative path to modernize the way we do it […] around this country, and ensures that all Americans have the opportunity to choose electric vehicles and spend less on the pump while our air becomes healthier, “Granholm said in a joint statement.

Moving towards an electric future

Although the construction of the infrastructure will not take place overnight, Timothy Johnson, professor and head of the energy and environment program at Duke University, pointed out the speed at which the United States was able to adapt to the growing need for gas stations between the 1920s and 1930s. . , build a whole new sector from a run-down starting point.

“We went from pretty much nothing in the 1920s to a couple of hundred thousand pumps in the 1930s,” he said. “We have power infrastructure, so adding chargers is not a big deal. We’ve done it before, we can do it again, and I think under simpler conditions this time.”

Despite the progress in increasing the number of chargers, not all chargers are created equal. While the $ 7.5 billion plan is a historic investment in the future of electric cars, the number is half of what the administration had originally proposed for the same number of chargers.

This means that instead of installing level 3 chargers that can almost fill the car’s battery in anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, the administration will likely implement more level 2 chargers – such as the type commonly found in homes and office buildings – that can take upwards of 20 hours to juice a hero.

The price tag for level 2 chargers rings in at a few thousand dollars, while level 3 chargers are 50 to 100 times as expensive, according to The Verge.

The plan was nevertheless hailed by environmental activists as a victory in the fight against climate change.

“The Biden Administration’s EV Charging Action Plan brings us one step closer to a much-needed national charging network,” said Simon Horowitz, an associate of Environment America Global Warming Solutions. “Transportation is currently the number one source of global warming emissions in the United States, with car pollution fueling the climate crisis every day. It is crucial that we drastically reduce our pollution to protect our planet.”

The infrastructure bill also covers EV batteries

Industry experts have raised concerns about the speed at which car batteries are produced, as well as their environmental impact.

The infrastructure bill, under which the program for charging stations for electric vehicles is funded, allocates $ 3 billion in competitive grants to accelerate the development of a North American battery supply chain. It also includes an additional $ 3 billion in grants aimed at expanding US battery production capabilities as well as establishing battery recycling facilities.

The announcement of the charging network comes with an extra effort, set by executive order, which sets a goal of making half of all new cars sold in 2030 cars with zero emissions.

Recent market changes suggest that although the nation is ambitious, the nation is better positioned to achieve this goal than before, as a number of barriers to electric car ownership – such as the lack of charging stations – have fallen.

“The more it seems normal, the more people will be willing to buy an electric vehicle,” said Johnson, a professor at Duke University.

According to a June Pew Research Center survey, only 7% of Americans said they owned an electric vehicle, but nearly 40% said it was very or somewhat likely that they were seriously considering buying an electric vehicle for their next car.

And for drivers concerned about the price of electric cars as opposed to gas-powered cars, Johnson said that as the cost of lithium battery production continues to fall, the United States is approaching a “magic cost threshold” for electric vehicles, where the price gap between gas-powered and electric vehicles will decrease .

A data analysis by Kelley Blue Book shows that the average cost of an electric vehicle fell 10.8% from 2020 to 2021, while the average cost of a traditionally powered vehicle rose 2.2% in the same period.

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